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Eminent Victorians dropped an explosive charge on Victorian England when the book was first published in 1918. Strachey's “elegant sneer” of a book effectively relegated Victorian culture to a knick-knack shelf, dismissed by any self-respecting intellectual.
It was a groundbreaking work of biography that raised the genre to the level of high art and ushered in the modern biography.
Strachey approached his subjects with skepticism rather than reverence, and his iconoclastic wit and engaging narratives thrilled as well as shocked his contemporaries.
His portraits of Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon changed perceptions of the Victorians for a generation.
It replaced reverence with skepticism and Strachey's wit and narrative skill forever liberated the biographical enterprise.
LYTTON STRACHEY (1880–1932) was a British author and critic. A founding member of the Bloomsbury Group and author of Eminent Victorians, he is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit. His 1921 biography Queen Victoria was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
"Lytton Strachey's chief mission, of course, was to take down once and for all the pretensions of the Victorian age to moral superiority... Something had been punctured for good."